Running an online business has so many perks. You make your own hours. You get to wear your pajamas if you want. The list goes on and on.
The one BIG advantage that the online business has over a brick and mortar business is that you can literally work from anywhere.
With 3 little kids, it’s a bit more difficult to pick up and go, but when we do, or blogs are still working for us. If we need to do some work on them, all we need is our laptops and an internet connection and we’re good to go.
It truly is a beautiful thing. 🙂
Taking it one step further is Natalie Sisson, more commonly known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur. To say that Natalie has traveled the world is an understatement.
This girl has literally been everywhere! What makes that even more impressive is that she’s been able to run a thriving online business while she does it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie at World Domination Summit where I learned she was also launching a book appropriately titled “The Suitcase Entrepreneur“.
I’m totally fascinated with nomadic entrepreneurs that can not only run an online business, but they can also kill it!
I was so intrigued with Natalie’s story that I wanted to pick her brain in how she did it. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as did.
1. Can You First Share a Bit About Your Journey Into Becoming an Online Entrepreneur?
After 9 years in the corporate world, I’ve built a six-figure global business from nothing but a blog and close to zero investment. Now I travel the world, living out of my suitcase, teaching others how to do the same. That’s the short version.
The reality is that I’m somewhat of an accidental online entrepreneur who forged my own path thanks to my insatiable appetite for learning about new tools, technology and strategies.
I took my corporate background and all I’d learned in my roles in marketing, brand management and business development and applied it to my own technology company I co-founded in 2008 in Canada, and later to my blog which is now my business.
I’ve always done things in a way that others would consider crazy or non-linear and for that I feel very lucky – because we all know that luck is preparation meeting opportunity, and I’m usually prepared and opportunistic.
So when I left the corporate world and walked away from the 9-5 drudge of a trade union in London, England, all I knew was a fancy title, a high up position and a great salary meant nothing if it wasn’t combined with work that you loved doing and had real meaning, and gave you a sense of freedom.
So I quit it all and took a flight to Vancouver, Canada to play the World Ultimate Frisbee Championships and figure it out from there. I met my business partner a networking event where I was determined to either figure out my own business or align with someone else. For 18 months we worked our asses off to build up a fundraising application on Facebook, acquire funding from investors and customers for our product.
It was during that time when I was wearing a bazillion entrepreneurial hats and cutting my teeth in this new fast paced startup world, that I started my blog – which eventually became something I was more passionate about then our company. The rest is history combined with three years of hard work and hustle to build the company and lifestyle I have today and love with all my heart.
2. What was your “aha-moment” when you realized that you could make real money online?
It was November 2010 and I’d run a series of successful in person workshops on using social media for your business. I decided since I’d gone to the lengths of creating all this great content for a two day workshop that I should figure out how to turn it into an online program.
I learned as much as I could and then when it was as ready as it ever would be, I ran my first webinar and sold one spot in the program. A couple of days later I had made my first few thousand dollars and I was like `Ah so this stuff is possible’.
I’ve gone on to launch a lot more products and programs since, and some worked amazingly well and others were not fully tried or tested, so if there’s one other thing I’ve learned is that you have to continually learn and apply what you know every single time.
There’s definitely a formula that works but it’s part and parcel of a much broader context that includes your own personal brand, values and alignment with your work and offerings.
3. What were your biggest obstacles of getting there? Can you share a personal story that shows one of those obstacles?
Myself. More importantly my limiting beliefs that I was cut out to run a business and figure out how to turn a humble blog into a profitable venture. The first 6 months after I left FundRazr to pursue my own thing, were some of the most terrifying and challenging of my life. But I personally wallowed in them to know what it felt like to feel the fear and do it anyway. To have zero income and have to hustle like crazy to make some magic happen and generate revenue.
I just had to learn to believe that I could achieve anything I wanted if I truly wanted it to become a reality and to believe in myself, my skills and my knowledge.
4. You literally travel the world and run your business from your laptop. Can you break some of the common misconceptions that people usually have about how you could never run a business purely online?
The biggest push back I get is that you have to have a physical presence somewhere in order to be seen and trusted. I think most people now know that’s a complete lie.
There are so many examples of businesses that have built a global empire with a virtual team around the world who all communicate through Skype, Google Apps and email. This is particularly true for software, tools and apps. But it also applies to businesses like legal firms, accountants, copywriters and companies with physical products (you can outsource inventory management, shipping and customer service and not own a warehouse these days).
But there are certain types of businesses, particularly service based where clients still expect you to show up and see them in person, come to meetings and be at an arms length. The solution to this actually comes back to you and how you set your business up in the first place.
If you give people the right signals from the beginning and are really clear on your intentions to be truly location independent, you will naturally deter the types of people who expect personal contact, and attract people who actually admire what you’re doing and want to work with you because of it.
5. What are some of your current challenges for running a complete online business?
Well sometimes it would just be great to have a physical office, printer, fax and telephone to get stuff done and have that infrastructure in one place. But now there are tools to fax people from your email and have mail sent from online so there no excuses really. It’s more from the point of view that there are benefits to having a set location to work from (especially if you’re not disciplined about working from cafes and airports) and security in knowing your wireless is reliable and always on.
Also it can be pretty tiring searching for locations to work and live from, and knowing when to switch off for the day given that you can be online 24/7. All of this mobility requires effort to harness in the right way, that positively impacts your business and lifestyle, rather than detracting from it.
6. Tell us the inspiration about your book “The Suitcase Entrepreneur”.
The inspiration behind my book was that I finally felt I had a story to tell and message to share that could impact hundreds of thousands of people who still don’t think it’s possible to work and live anywhere.
More importantly to challenge peoples’ assumptions of what’s possible and buck the traditional methods and perspectives on how we are meant to work, profit and play.
So it’s all about possibilities but backed up with incredibly practical and hands on strategies, tips and methods to apply to your own unique situation. I know my book also appeals to those just starting out and established entrepreneurs who are looking to go more mobile and take their business online.
Even if you don’t want to start a business there’s a lot of juicy travel hacking tips and reality checks on what to expect and consider before you do go off on your adventure too.
7. What’s the #1 thing you hope people get out of reading your book?
That there is no better time than now to choose your own adventure and truly live life on your own terms. And that you don’t need to permission to do this.
Bonus Question: Best and Worst places you’ve visited?
I had someone ask me about the worst country I’d visited and I really struggled to answer that. I tend to view most challenging experiences as positive ones, and travel has this way of making you forget the really bad parts and remember the fantastic ones. I’d say the outskirts of Cebu in Philippines were not exactly the most wonderful moments spent on this earth. I was there for a purpose – to write my book. But the surroundings were pretty shabby, dirty, noisy, dusty, and supposedly unsafe. I felt quite isolated and a little trapped for a time being.
Best places are to many to mention but visiting the powerful Iguassu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, reaching the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, biking from Nairobi to Cape Town, floating down the Mekong river in an inner tube in Vang Vieng (while drinking Beer Laos and taking time out to go on giant swings and dive off platforms) and sailing on the Pacific Oceans in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand to name a few.
Thank you Natalie!
Be sure to check out Natalie’s new book The Suitcase Entrepreneur now available on Amazon.